Friday, May 22, 2009

The continuing insanity of NSW's approach to driving licenses

Almost twelve months ago in Saturday Morning Musings - the burden of compliance I spoke in part of the change in the law in NSW that required new drivers to do 120 hours of practice before they could get their first license. I suggested at the time that this was inequitable, costly and was likely to have adverse effects.

The evidence is now starting to come in to show that I was right. Here I want to focus on just two elements. I don't have the links unfortunately. I picked the stories up while travelling.

The first is inequity. My argument here was that we had created a system that made it hard for those who did not have access to a motor vehicle or could not afford to pay a driving instructor to actually get a license. This was a further barrier to those with little income.

There was a recent story in the Sydney press about a girl trying to create a charity that would give young people from poor backgrounds the chance to get a license. She wanted people to provide cars and volunteer drivers. Without this, an increasing number of young people would never be able to afford to get a license legally.

A driver's license is a pre-condition for many jobs. When we make it impossible for young people from low income families to be able to afford a license, we are directly adding to Australia's growing under class.

The second element is continuing corruption in our attitude to the law. Again, I suggested that the effect of the increased hours would be to create a further incentive for people to lie, to falsify records. I knew this to be true from the young that I knew. Now, a survey by a motoring organisation revealed that 14% of those participating were prepared to lie to get their license.

I think that the proportion is in fact higher than this.

A law that adds hundreds of millions of dollars in costs, that further disadvantages low income families, that teaches people to lie just to get around it, is not, to my mind, a good law.

All this might drop away if there were hard evidence that the law provided sufficient benefit to offset the costs. I know of no such evidence.

No comments: